A wristband that punishes you.

So here’s something new.

We all know Mr Pavlov and his conditioning experiments, where eventually the dogs in the experiment not only to salivated when they tasted meat powder, but salivated to the sound of a ringing bell. Now you can do the same conditioning to yourself, without the help of someone else. Although rather unpleasant, a bracelet named “Pavlok”may help you to get rid of some or all of your unpleasant habits.

To start with, you will have to tell Pavlok what exactly you want to change. Whether you want to go to the gym more often, visit certain websites less or even sleep less: The bracelet then measures these habits by tracking your location to make sure you’re at your gym, using a Chrome plugin to make sure you don’t visit certain websites and by tracking movements in order to make sure you’re awake. And these are just a few examples of its use. According to the founders, Pavlok then gives you small electronic shocks every time you fail to behave according to these predetermined goals. These can range from annoying to painful, depending on personal preferences and pain thresholds.

Therefore, as opposed to other bracelets, Pavlok does not at all measure your habits, your sleep or your movements. Instead of giving you the opportunity to change your habits and improve your lifestyle it controls them by punishing you with electroshocks or even small payments to be made whenever you fail to comply. As soon as you start complying, instead of being punished through negative enforcement, the positive enforcement phase starts and you can even win little prizes.

Similar to some of the critics you may now say “We’re not dogs! And we can just take the bracelet off!”. But will we really take them off? Or will we develop a need to “win” against the bracelet that can make us change our habits? Can we let this little device take control over our lives in this way or will we overpower it by ignoring the little shocks and finding new ways to cheat our ways through?

To read more about the functions and additional features of Pavlok, click here:




4 responses to “A wristband that punishes you.”

  1. rsiskens says :

    When I first read the title of this post and saw the explainatory picture I thought this wristband was a joke. Who wants to receive electrical shocks or donate money to no one for goals he or she doesn’t even want to achieve? But then I started reading the article and checked the references.

    It does make sense in way that people who tend to commit to a certain goal but give up too soon need a device that shocks them back on track. The Pavlok is your external discipline starting at a fair 99 dollar. Discipline can bring a lot of good things to people. As the creator said in the article on Techcrunch, he went from two hours Facebook per day to days without.
    This is the positive side of the Pavlok, the downside is the fact that once one another decides to take his/her Pavlok off and give up on his/her goals, it will probably never be worn again. Sunk cost: 99 dollar.

    I think there will be four groups of people using (or eventually not using) the Pavlok:
    – The ones who would have achieved their goals anyway (30%)
    – The ones who succesfully achieve their goals using the Pavlok (10%)
    – The ones who immediatly hate the thing and are shocked by the fact that they spent 99 dollar on it. (60%)

    I estimate the changes of success for this product rather low. Maybe it will show a peak when some people were ‘helped’ by the Pavlok and word-of-mouth did its work. But that is as good as it gets in my opinion. Nice article, thanks for sharing!

  2. 345614 Marco Fodde says :

    I do not think this bracelet will ever work. The Pavlov experiments’ key was that the dogs did not know they were being manipulated to salivate at the ring of the bell. So this “training” does not work if you are the one manipulating yourself and are fully aware. I believe it is almost inherent to the term “manipulate” that it is on someone or something else. If I would put this wristband on I would probably see it more as a reminder to do stuff, but if I wouldn’t feel like doing it I would probably just take the wristband off. And if you have the mental strength to not take the band off and actually do the required behavior, which you do not feel like doing, you probably wouldn’t need the wristband anyway since you already have the mental strength to force yourself to perform the task.

  3. 358485bn says :

    I have a hard time believing in all these connected bracelets/wristbands. I think that all these activity trackers are just a costly gadget added to your smartphone. Moreover with the development of smart watches, they will all become obsolete because they will be integrated into a single device. You might argue that smart watches are expensive, but so are all these connected wristbands, moreover today more and more smart watches are sold at a lower price bundled with smartphones.
    I think Nike faced that problem with the fuel bands, after several years in the market, the company decided to drop the fuel bands in order to focus on software development.
    Pavlok could/should maybe follow the same path and develop a software for smart phones and smart watches where user gets punished or rewarded without being physically touched. As an example, Pavlok could block the computer/Phone screen for a determined amount of time if the user goes on a certain website.

  4. 344994hr says :

    I totally agree with the comment above me. I think the bracelet is just an iteration to the final product, which will just be software incorporated in some kind of device most of us already have, probably a phone or if smart-watches kick off then that would be an even better fit. I was thinking about the use for me personally but i wouldn’t wear it to help me accomplish goals. As mentioned before i think that if you have enough willpower to wear the bracelet, you will have enough willpower to accomplish your goals. With or without the bracelet. But, i think the ‘punishment bracelet’ could be used for way more than behavioral training. If made cheaper, what would be realistic and possible in next iterations, i think this bracelet is amazing to have at parties or included in drinking games! The shock is a perfect method of punishment for breaking a rule and is clear and easy to understand for everybody. So even if i don’t believe in the product the way it is now, i think this could become a huge success if it would be re-branded.

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